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Pensioners trousered £47,000 from Greenwich Council for Racial Equality
FOR years they were seen as pillars of their community, fighting for the rights of ethnic minorities, but these two pensioners had a dirty secret.
Behind the scenes, Hardev Singh Dhillon and Makhan Bajwa from Greenwich Council for Racial Equality (GCRE) were conspiring to create false invoices for companies both real and bogus.
Treasurer Dhillon, 76, and director Bajwa, 67, abused their positions to countersign cheques made payable to themselves, before using them to line their own pockets.
In total they defrauded £47,000 from the charity and Greenwich Council.
Earlier this month they admitted conspiracy to defraud, a crime which came to light after a new chairman went through the accounts and raised concerns with the local authority.
The council ceased funding the organisation and it closed down soon afterwards - the end of a 43-year history of community support including high-profile incidents like the Stephen Lawrence murder.
Former employee Surinder Cheema, who is now setting up his own replacement organisation, said: "Since the closure, victims have really been left without any help or advice in the borough.
"Whatever they've paid, that doesn't bring back the organisation or its employees."
GCRE member William Ekinu said: "For a long time they were held in high esteem by the whole community. They were trusted. They betrayed that trust."
Bajwa lives in a large detached house in Park Crescent, Erith, and drives a Jaguar with personalised numberplates spelling out his name.
Worshippers at his local gurdwara in Belvedere are said to be dismayed at the revelations.
Mr Ekinu said: "He deceived the community that he was a genuine and honest person."
Dhillon, from Plumstead Common, and Bajwa have paid back £36,000 and said that they can pay back the rest before sentencing on August 9 at Woolwich Crown Court.